July 29, 2012. Washington. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights sued four specific agencies and individuals within the US federal government last week. Representing the family members of the deceased victims of a White House assassination, the civil rights groups argue that the federal government does not have the right to murder American citizens without charge, trial, conviction or a setting of battle.
Civil rights groups sue the federal government to stop assassinations of Americans.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Washington DC. Plaintiffs are named as the estates of Anwar al-Aulaqi and Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, as well as Samir Khan. Named as defendants are Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Special Operations Commander William McRaven, Joint Special Operations Commander Joseph Votel, and the Director of the CIA David Petraeus.
The ‘Introduction’ of the lawsuit begins, ‘Since 2001, and routinely since 2009, the United States has carried out deliberate and premeditated killings of suspected terrorists overseas. The US practice of “targeted killing” has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside the context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Philippines. These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts.’
In September 2011, Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan and al-Aulaqi’s teenage son Abdulrahman, were assassinated by US agents operating unmanned drones over Yemen. All three men are American citizens. Al-Aulaqi was born in New Mexico and Khan is from North Carolina.
As detailed in the Whiteout Press article, ‘White House Assassinates Americans, again’, Aulaqi was the first US citizen to be officially assassinated, ever. It’s no conspiracy theory – American ‘death squads’ are back and the White House freely admits it.
White House cover-up
As detailed by the Huffington Post, President Obama and the White House have offered little to no explanation for the first-ever program to assassinate American citizens at will. They write, ‘In response, the White House has said next to nothing, except to offer indirect rationales for its internal deliberation process, and off-the-record assurances that the President was not violating the Constitution’.
The account quotes the New York Times, which writes that the White House explained to the Times that ‘in assessing civilian casualties from the killings, they assume that anyone in the area of a strike is a combatant until proven otherwise’.
ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights
This isn’t the first time the two civil rights organizations have filed suits against the US government over the White House’s domestic assassination program. Two years ago, and one year before Aulaqi’s assassination, the two organizations sued the federal government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father to prevent his assassination. As detailed in the Huffington Post account, ‘A judge later threw out the case, ruling that Aulaqi’s father did not have standing to sue, and asserting that the courts may not have the capacity to assess the decision to place someone on a classified kill list’.
In a conference call with reporters after filing the suit in federal court, ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said, “The government has said in response that not only does it not have an obligation to explain it, it doesn’t even have to acknowledge it, and we think that is a very dangerous proposition.”
In a letter to supporter, an ACLU spokesperson explains the organization’s action on behalf of the three murdered American citizens, “Our complaint argues that these killings occurred outside of armed conflict and violated the Constitution and international law, which prohibit the government from using lethal force except as a last resort to protect against specific, concrete and imminent threats of deadly harm. The complaint also alleges that the government failed to take legally required measures to protect civilian bystanders. The government has never charged any of the three US citizens with a crime.”
The letter further argues, “Outside of armed conflict, both the Constitution and international law prohibit killing without due process, except as a last resort to avert a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury…The lawsuit argues that the senior CIA and military leaders who authorized and directed the killings violated these standards.”
For more information, visit the websites of the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
For a chilling reminder of what happens when the US federal government uses death squads on American citizens, read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Happy Patriot’s Day’.
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